ACCA Qualification prepares future-proof professionals

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Thousands of students around the world sat ACCA’s first Strategic Business Leader exam last year. The case study-based paper features the sort of real-world scenarios that professional accountants will face in their careers, and asks students to demonstrate they have the right blend of technical, ethical and professional skills to handle them successfully.

Bringing together strategy, risk, governance, technology, data analytics and innovation issues – along with core technical and ethical skills – Strategic Business Leader is designed to give students the skills employers need, enabling them to contribute significant value to the organisation.

Over the past few years there has been a raft of changes to the way the ACCA Qualification is taught and assessed to ensure our professional accountants are prepared for the real world. As well as the new case study, there is a new Ethics and Professional Skills module, more computer-based exams and an enhanced corporate reporting exam. You can see how the qualification is now structured in the booklet enclosed with this month’s AB magazine – if you are reading this digitally you will find it after the contents page.

For members, these changes will ensure that the ACCA Qualification’s reputation for rigour and relevance is protected and enhanced, helping to ensure all our members remain in demand with employers, and continue to be recognised for their progressive and adaptable approach, expertise, strong ethical values and good judgment.

For employers, the changes underline the message that ACCA develops professional accountants who are fully equipped to help their organisation to unlock its full potential.

Through these changes, we are aiming to train future leaders from the beginning of their careers. As ACCA president Leo Lee says in his column in this special leadership edition of AB, which we’ve put together to mark the launch of the Strategic Business Leader exam, finance professionals need to have many strong leadership traits.

They need to be well rounded and able to use their knowledge of a company or situation gained through their technical and professional analysis to decide on the right way forward. It will also put them in a strong position to build their careers to follow in the footsteps of the significant number of ACCA members who now hold very senior positions in businesses and other organisations in all sectors across the world.

Driving forces

The changes to the qualification are backed by global research into the future of the profession involving more than 2,000 finance professionals in senior positions, as well as by our ongoing professional insights research into critical issues facing tomorrow’s finance profession.

The research identified four drivers of change expected to affect the profession over the coming years: more regulation and stronger governance, advances in digital technology, higher expectations of the contribution of professional accountants, and continued globalisation.

This, in turn, has informed what we see as the key skillsets – seven technical, ethical and interpersonal competencies – that professional accountants will be required to demonstrate. These seven ‘quotients’ (intelligence, creative, digital, emotional intelligence, vision and experience, with technical and ethical competencies at the heart) have helped us redesign the ACCA Qualification.

The changes to the qualification that have been introduced over the past two years will ensure that we continue to thrive as a professional body of members with the forward-thinking strategic abilities and advanced skillset needed to shape the future of global business. The qualification is now deeper and broader as a result, with an even greater focus on employability and the practical application of core skills in the modern workplace.

When employers choose to recruit or train an ACCA finance professional, they know they will get someone who is ready to lead, adapt and help their organisations grow and succeed. And these professionals themselves will continue to grow and learn, keeping their professional edge so they can keep delivering for their organisations. ACCA provides many learning opportunities for members at all stages of their career – see for more. And look out for details of our Accounting for the Future global virtual conference in November, which will feature interesting and useful sessions on leadership, technology and much more.

These changes to the qualification are the end of the beginning rather than an end in itself. We must be forward-looking, able to anticipate future demands on our capabilities and adapt accordingly. Armed with an understanding of the seven quotients, backed by research into the future working world and supported by a relevant, practical and flexible qualification, ACCA members and their employers will have the confidence to flourish in the constantly changing business environment.

Judith Bennett is ACCA’s director of professional qualifications

This article was first published in the September 2018 UK edition of Accounting and Business magazine

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